CLEVELAND — What a remarkable season it was for high school football in Northeast Ohio.
We kicked off in the heat of the late summer in Wadsworth and ended in the chilly Canton night as Kirtland won its second straight state championship and fifth overall.
In between, we were proud to bring you the WKYC.com Game of the Week every Friday night. We saw some great games and will always remember some of the dazzling moments on the field.
So thanks to digital producer extraordinare Brian Crane, here are our top 10 plays of the 2019 High School Football Season. You can watch them all in the player above.
10. Massillon's Zion Phifer breaks ankles and tackles versus Avon
In the Division II State Semifinal at Byers Field, Massillon turned to Zion Phifer to replace injured RB Terrance Keyes Jr. All Phifer did was run 20 times for 146 yards and four touchdowns as the Tigers topped the Eagles, 35-10. His third touchdown was a thing of beauty.
9. Lutheran West gets tipped pass to set up score against Berkshire
One of our favorite stops of 2019 was to Lutheran West to see the Longhorns battle the Badgers from Berkshire. A key early play saw Lutheran West QB Austin Kim look deep for Isaiah Parker. The two hooked up thanks to a deflection and a remarkable catch by Parker. Lutheran West went on to win 30-7.
8. Medina air raids deep touchdown against Euclid
The longest game we saw all season pitted Medina against Euclid on a warm September night. Throwing virtually every down, the Bees stayed in the game thanks to their air raid offense piloted by quarterback Ryan Gillespie. The most memorable pass was a heave to the end zone that was somehow tracked down by wideout Luke Hensley. Euclid would prevail, thanks in large part to Jaabir Mujihad, who ran 35 times for 259 yards in a 43-35 Panther victory.
7. Barberton gets pick-6 during flurry of points against Massillon
For the first time in 24 years, the Massillon Tigers squared off against the Barberton Magics. The two teams battered each other back and forth during a wild first half. Aidan Longwell hit Jayden Ballard on a beautiful touchdown pass for the Tigers, then Barberton countered with a Chase Haywood to Ryan Watkins strike. Terrance Keyes Jr. scored twice to put Massillon up 21-9, but Charles Hornacek electrified the crowd with an interception return for a touchdown late in the 2nd quarter to keep the Magics hopes for an upset alive. But it was not to be. Massillon pulled away in the second half for a 49-25 victory.
6. Aurora's Ben Rogge returns punt for touchdown versus Revere
You could just tell that it was going to be a special fall for the Aurora Greenmen when we saw them take on Revere in Week 9. Bob Mihalik's team had seen a streak of 12 straight playoff appearances come to an end the season before and were hungry to make amends. The Greenmen dismantled Revere, jumping out to a 41-0 lead at halftime. The most electrifying play was a Ben Rogge punt return for a touchdown. Aurora went on to win 48-7 as they captured the Suburban League's American Conference en route to a berth in the Division III state semifinals.
5. Chardon's defense scores on their way to shutout playoff win over Streetsboro
One of the best defenses we saw all year came from Chardon, as Mitch Hewitt's Hilltoppers held the high-powered Streeetsboro Rockets in check in the Division III regional semifinals. Streetsboro was limited to 125 yards of total offense in a 35-0 Chardon shutout that was highlighted by a pick-six touchdown by Hilltopper safety Brady Toth.
4. Hail Mary at end of first half powers Benedictine to comeback win over Brecksville
In just about any season, this play would be our number one highlight. That tells you how memorable our season was! In round one of the playoffs at Bedford, Brecksville jumped out to a 28-10 lead over Benedictine and looked poised for the win. But the Bengals got some much needed momentum at the end of the first half as Ronnie Schultz hit Charles Rosser on a Hail Mary touchdown in the back of the end zone. How good was it? Check out this photo:
Schultz would connect with Chris Gales for the game-winning touchdown with 28 seconds left as the Bengals rallied for the 41-38 win.
3. Mentor stays alive versus St. Edward, thanks to fumble recovery at 1-yard-line and 99-yard touchdown drive
In what was undoubtedly our game of the year, Mentor squared off against St. Edward in the Division I Regional Final. So much was at stake in this game besides just advancing to the next round. The Cardinals were playing for their head coach, Steve Trivisonno, who had announced that this would be his last season at Mentor. All that was missing for Coach Triv was a state championship.
But the defending Division I state champs from St. Edward had no intention of making life easy for Mentor. The Eagles jumped out to a 14-0 lead and looked poised to add another touchdown as they drove towards the Cardinal goal line. But Joey Formani lost the ball at the 1-yard line, giving Mentor an opportunity. Ian Kipp would find Luke Floriea on a 57-yard touchdown pass to complete the 14-point swing. The Cardinals suddenly had life.
2. The Kipp-to-Floriea connection sends Mentor to the Division I State Semifinals
Despite the disappointment of the fumble at the one, St. Edward would respond with a touchdown and led 21-7 at halftime and 28-14 in the third quarter before Kipp found Floriea again on a 25-yard flea flicker to make it 28-21. Kipp later threw to Brian Trobel to tie it and 28 and eventually send it to overtime (a first for the WKYC.com High School Football Game of the Week).
In overtime, Connor O'Malley's third TD pass of the game put St. Edward up 35-28, setting the stage for the final heroics by Kipp and Floriea. Kipp scored on a one-yard plunge on fourth down to pull the Cardinals to within 35-34. Trivisonno kept his offense on the field and put the ball in the hands of Kipp for a two-point conversion attempt and the win. A rollout pass found Floriea in the end zone and victory for the Cardinals in a game that took your breath away.
1. Five for the Hive
The Kirtland Hornets moved up from Division VI to Division V this season, but never lost any of their mojo after winning the state title in 2018. The Hornets powered their way to a 14-0 record and a berth in the Division V State Championship Game against Ironton at Canton's Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
Kirtland came out aggressively, as a 47-yard pass from Liam Powers to Gage Sullivan on the first play from scrimmage set up a 27-yard touchdown run by Mason Sullivan on the very next play. The Hornets would go on to win 17-7 to complete back-to-back state championships, 30 straight wins, and their fifth state championship since 2011.